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Life Lessons

Big-Time College Sports

Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide for its victory over LSU in the BCS Championship football game in New Orleans.

That being said, I find it hard to get too excited over anything in big-time college sports. People who love the college game always point to the spirit and youthful enthusiasm on campus. That may be true, but not enough people mention the other side: recruiting violations, player arrests, low graduation rates.

Then, of course, there is the recent scandal at Penn State where, by all accounts, some people put the football program ahead of evidence of sexual assault.

And so while I admire the work of coaches who organize, plan, teach and motivate on a championship level, I can’t ignore the idea that so many so-called institutions of higher learning are willing to sacrifice ideals in favor of big-time exposure and television money.

A perfect example of some schools’ priorities is the comment of Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, who, when asked if scandal-struck coach football Jim Tressel should be fired, replied, “I just hope he doesn’t fire me.”

In the early days at Penn State, students rioted over the scandal’s impact on coach Joe Paterno and the football program. Really? Is that what it’s all about?

Colleges have too many streets and dorms named after coaches, and not enough after inventors and science pioneers. This ESPN the Magazine article beautifully details the dangers of the cult of coach.

Concern over college values is more than moralizing. It is about the future. Amid a global economy and worry over unemployment and national security, how can a nation prosper when its colleges and universities cut programs to fund big-time sports? What is the United States going to do when other countries take an insurmountable lead in science and technology? Shift its linebackers?

Alabama left no doubt who should be No. 1 in the Associated Press football poll. And unfortunately, there is little doubt about priorities in so-called institutions of higher learning.

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2 comments for “Big-Time College Sports”

  1. Mike, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The entire notion of college sports being an amateur enterprise is so laughable at this point in time. And your mention of Penn State makes me wonder why the football program isn’t facing the death penalty. Some 25 years ago, Southern Methodist got the “death” penalty and was shut down for the rather minor crime (compared to Penn State) of having a slush fund to pay players. At Penn State there appears to have been a concerted effort by people at the highest levels of the university to cover up sexual assaults, thus allowing those assaults to continue for years. That seems much worse to me. Yet there was Penn State in a bowl game a few weeks ago. Whatever for?

    Posted by Lee | January 10, 2012, 5:10 pm
  2. At Rutgers University they renovated their football stadium and cut worthwhile programs. Whatever for?

    Posted by Mike Tully | January 10, 2012, 5:48 pm

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